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Free Spirit

Her unique journey is as colorful as her art

When you ask Gaye Goodman ’67 for her life story, be specific.

“Cocktail waitress, belly dancer, flight attendant, art teacher—I’ve had the most checkered past of any alum I know,” she laughs. “Of course, every career was done with an abundance of intellectual insight.”

Today an Albuquerque, N.M.-based artist and successful entrepreneur, Goodman has been an adventurer since childhood, when she capped off a year living in Japan with sailing around the world at age 10.

“I was totally hooked on travel after that,” she says, “and it set the pattern for the rest of my life.”

After Swarthmore, she lived in Switzerland, France, and Mexico but found her true home in the world of art. Supporting herself and her first husband as a door-to-door pastel portraitist in Houston, Goodman decided to strike out on her own. She moved to La Jolla, Calif., where she lived by the beach in a house full of Vietnam War fighter pilot veterans, dove for abalone, and decided to devote herself to art.

“I developed a way to draw on velveteen in batik, and they sold really well,” she says. “That was the start of my actual commercial art career.”

To fund it, Goodman moved to San Francisco to work for World Airways. As a flight attendant, she traveled the world anew, riding horses around Egyptian pyramids and meeting her second husband in the mists of Machu Picchu. That marriage inspired her to create large, abstract paintings; her divorce inspired her to open an art gallery in Galveston, Texas, and eventually move to Albuquerque.

On the advice of her management-consultant brother—who encouraged her to scale back on the harp lessons and professional belly-dancing side gigs—Goodman focused all her energy on Faux Real Floors, her latest business. Using artistic techniques she’d perfected over the years while innovating others, Goodman finished the concrete floor and walls of a Rio Rancho, N.M., restaurant with industry-changing aplomb.

“Floor staining had been around for 60 years, but no one was thinking of it the way an artist would, and people just went nuts for what I did,” she says. “So I created a 10-chapter-long video revealing all of our secrets that we priced at $97. More than 11,000 copies sold around the world before my brother stopped counting.”

As she trains her successor, Goodman focuses on her own art again and her current medium: mosaics that utilize special phosphorescent glow stones. For the beautifully broken path she’s followed over the years, it makes lovely artistic sense, too.

“My life’s been a roller coaster, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” she says. “Even when it was sad, it was never dull, and ultimately fulfilling.”